Injury cloud over riders Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo
MotoGP season opener can be anyone's race with youngest world champion as well as two-time title winner having to fix broken bones
Marc Marquez, the youngest MotoGP world champion, and two-time title winner Jorge Lorenzo, go into Sunday's season-opener having spent more time in doctors' surgeries than on the track this winter.
Marquez made history last year, marking his rookie year with a maiden world crown at the age of 20.
But the flamboyant Spaniard suffered a broken right leg while dirt-biking just six weeks ago and admits he is nowhere near 100 per cent for the opening race under the Qatar floodlights.
Marquez's accident in his native Spain meant he missed two of the winter's three tests, having set the fastest times in the opening session in Malaysia on his all-conquering Honda.
"It was very disappointing for me to miss two tests, but the good news is that I'm getting better and the bone is mending," said Marquez, who turned 21 last month.
"I've been exercising more, so I'll have to see how I am in Qatar - I don't expect to be 100 per cent, but I will try my hardest.
"The important thing is to take some valuable points and then get up to 100 per cent by round two in Austin," Marquez said.
"It's difficult because I've lost over a month of training and five days ago, I couldn't even walk. I can walk now and, if I can do that, I should be OK on the bike."
Lorenzo, the 2010 and 2012 world champion, who came second to compatriot Marquez last year - a hair's-breadth four points behind -has also been under the knife.
The 26-year-old needed three operations to fully repair his collarbone, broken twice last year, at Assen and at the Sachsenring.
Lorenzo finished last season with an impressive flourish, winning the final three races in Australia, Japan and Valencia.
He also had the personal satisfaction of putting Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi, a nine-time world champion and with whom he has enjoyed a cool relationship, in the shade.
Lorenzo finished 93 points ahead of the Italian, who was fourth overall, beaten out of third spot by Dani Pedrosa, on the second factory Honda.
"I undertook three surgeries during the winter to take out some plates and metal pieces from the collarbone and the hand, so I returned to full fitness quite late," said Lorenzo.
"In general, I feel nearly at 100 per cent and I guess in Qatar we won't have any problems to push to the maximum."
Rossi will start his 19th grand prix season this weekend having won just a single race - in Assen - last year.
As well as fellow heavyweights Honda, the Italian believes his former team Ducati could spring a surprise.
"We need to try and see the level this year once the races start as we have been more competitive in testing. I believe Aleix [Espargaro] and the Ducati riders will be strong both in terms of lap times and their race pace," he said.
The 2014 season sees 18 races in all, including a first trip to Argentina.
There will also be a batch of technical tweaks as organisers seek to boost the competitive edge of the championship with teams having to decide whether to race under a "factory" or "open" option.
All teams must use the same hardware, but can opt to utilise their own software - that would put them in the factory option as Honda and Yamaha have chosen.
That would also mean 20 litres of fuel per race and only five engines during the season.
All other teams, including Ducati, have selected the open category with 24 litres of fuel per race and unlimited testing. But they must all use the same spec software.
Ducati will have Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso on board for the season while Moto2 world champion Pol Espargaro steps up into the elite division.
Pol Espargaro is one of four rookies in the premier class, but he sustained a broken collarbone during the final minutes of the last preseason test.
The other three debutants are France's Mike di Meglio, Scott Redding of Britain and Australian Broc Parkes.